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I Still Like History, But Christmas Trees are Better
    by Cary Branscum

    One memory stands out from my fourth grade school year. It was the last day of class before Christmas break in a tiny farm community in Northern Oklahoma. Oklahoma is cold in December. The only thing standing between Oklahoma and the arctic circle is a barbed wire fence, and it’s down most of the time.

    As the exhausted teacher helped students pack up totebags (these were pre-backpack years), we carefully placed our class gifts (fifty cents maximum spending limit) in their places, and helped take down the holiday decor in our classroom.

    I looked up, and the teacher was marching to the trash can with a beautiful Christmas tree! The tree was essentially a pyramid of styrofoam balls stuck with toothpicks and spraypainted gold. It was an unwieldy thing, and was loosely glued to a small square of red cardboard. I thought to myself, “This will make a great gift for my mom. What a find! What a goldmine! The perfect present for my mom and at no cost to me!”

    I begged to take it home, so she walked me out to the schoolbus. As I sat in the front seat, she helped me balance this beauty for the long trip home. The bus slowly eased out onto the red shale county road headed for home.

    What a victory! Soon it would be Christmas. My mom would love this tree. I already imagined it standing in the place of honor on top of our ol’ Zenith TV.

    Life was marvelous. I had good stuff in my totebag. My coat was warm. My hatflaps were snapped snugly under my ears. I balanced the crowing glory of all Christmas trees on my knee. Then...

    Then the next thing I remember seeing was a history book lying at my feet, surrounded by toothpicks and styrofoam balls rolling all over the bus floor. The driver stopped and said “who did that?” No one answered. Some coward had thrown a history book and demolished my Christmas tree.

    What could I do? I sat there numb in absolute shock. Only later did I get really angry about it. I didn’t know exactly what to do, but I did something! I instinctively threw the book behind me. I didn’t know where it landed, and to be honest, I didn’t care. My precious gift, my beautiful crowning glory of all Christmas trees gift was no more...

    When you can do nothing, what do you do?

    I picked up the pieces, went home, and explained to my mom. She helped me reassemble it, adding a dab of tenderness to take care of my bruised ego as well as a lot of glue to the tree. (By the way mom, if you read this, thanks, you’re still one of my heroes!) It was okay when we finished, but nothing like it’s original glory. But at least I did something, ‘cause something had to be done. In fact, when history books fly and dreams crash, we all end up doing something, even if it is doing nothing!

When you can do nothing, what do you do?
    Have you ever felt helpless and out of control? Has somebody thrown a history book into your Christmas tree and brought your dreams crashing down in ugly pieces? And what if your “mom” isn’t around to help you pick up the pieces? And even if she is, what if she can’t reassemble these pieces? What will you do?

    Well, one thing is for sure, you will do something, even if it is nothing. But I want to encourage you to deal with it somehow. Find the strength to go on. Do something!

    Just yesterday, I sat across a table from a good friend whose wife has a ten to fifteen percent chance of surviving a devastating cancer. He looked at me and said, “You know, we’re Christians, and somehow after going through all the denial, hurt, terror, hope, and devastation, you just go on and live as well as you can. God has created us to be very resourceful, hopeful creatures.” You will do something!

    But how will you do it?

    First, you will NOT lift yourself up by your own bootstraps. You will do all you can do, but more importantly, you will throw yourself on the power of God and His Spirit. Life seems overwhelming, but with God’s help, it will NOT be too much for you. You will do something. You will go on. But you will do it with God’s help, acknowledging you can’t do it alone.

    Second, you will face the reality of your own experience. You will assess the situation to see both the good and the bad. It’s easy to see the thrown history book, but it’s not always easy to pick up the pieces and have Christmas anyway. But you will find the good pieces, look for some glue, and go on with Christmas. You won’t through it all away and give up. You something won’t be nothing!

    Finally, how about a Bible verse that rises out a struggle to persevere that tells us how we overcome and live a victorious life — even if we feel weak, devastated, and helpless? Look at Romans 5:6 and its surrounding context: “While we were yet weak and sinful, Christ died for us.” Put in good ol’ Okie English, “When the Devil smashes your Christmas tree with a dumb history book, Jesus will sit down with you in the mess, help you pick up the pieces, and make sure you have Christmas!” His best work is in lives that are broken.


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About the Author...
Cary Branscum is the Singles minister at the Westover Hills Church of Christ in Austin, Texas.

 
Title: "I Still Like History, But Christmas Trees are Better"
Author: Cary Branscum
Publication Date: April 5, 2000

 

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